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Thursday, 13 July 2017

About Me: Living with Cerebral Palsy

"Despite my disabilities, I am as valuable as anybody else to the world" - Katherine Hayward
 This is a serious post. Well, when I say serious, I mean real.
So this will probably take a while.

I've been wanting to discuss this on my blog for a long time, and I suppose you could say that I've finally grown the balls to do so.

HERE WE GOO...

If you know me, you will know that I'm a huge fan of a show called "First Dates" where all kinds of people have a blind date in a restaurant in the hope of finding love.

You may be asking yourself what relevance this has to this particular post. Well, in one particular episode that was aired recently, we saw a man named David who was a sufferer also of the same form of cerebral palsy as myself.

Seeing him open up  having to go through the same things I am going through at this moment in time in terms of dealing with modern life and disability it made me aware that I'm not alone in this. Before that episode was aired, I had never seen another person in reality or through a TV screen walk the same way I walk. I'm not going to lie to you, it made me cry. In fact, David spoke of how when dating, people tend to notice his disability before they see him for who he really is. This is actually one of my biggest fears: being judged for something I cannot control. It is crazy to think how his fears about the future mirror mine quite accurately.

It's definitely not difficult to spot when someone suffers from such a form of the condition. You will see a major difference in the way you walk compared to the way I walk. If you know me, you've probably put this physical attribute the back of your minds because it's normal for you to see it.

The form of Cerebral Palsy from which I suffer is often know as Diplegia, which can be defined as "constant "tightness" or "stiffness"—in the muscles of the lower extremities of the human body, usually those of the legs".

The reason why this is so plain to see, is due to the fact that when I walk, my feet turn in on themselves causing me to walk very strangely in comparison to a normal person. This in turn effects my balance and my confidence while walking.

As a child, it never really effected me that much, but that's probably because I didn't exactly understand why walking on your tip-toes was so abnormal. I still walk on my toes now. As a child I just thought I had special treatment because I was a nice person, not because I had something physically wrong with me. By special treatment I mean I didn't have to take part in PE lessons, I didn't get to go on certain school trips and I couldn't use the stairs without help. I suppose you're thinking that not doing PE is the best thing ever, but when your a 10 year old who is full of energy is limited by their physical abilities it can be quite a downer on your confidence.

All through my school years, I had medical help to try and decrease the severity of my difficulties through numerous pairs of "specially adapted" insoles and "specially adapted" splints and physiotherapy that just wouldn't seem to rid of something that was really effecting my confidence quite largely. I think it was the subconscious feeling that having all these things such as physiotherapy would be an admission of the fact that there was something wrong with me. This is probably where my insecurities primarily came from.

There was one instance in which my doctor recorded my walking to see how exactly he could help me improve. It was only then I began to realise the obviousness of my condition. When watching back this recording to discuss what could be done, I got upset because  up to that point I didn't realise you could visibly see the differences in walking between myself and others.

In Comprehensive School, you could say that on the outside I tried to ignore my condition as best I could by being positive and thinking I could do anything and keeping up a brave face, with nobody in my school questioning the way in which I walked. However, once I did get asked outright by a pupil I didn't even know "Why are you walking like a weirdo?". That stuck in my head for quite some time, considering I can remember that word for word to this day, it obviously has effected me quite severely. Considering before then I never had anyone noticing my condition and I felt normal this was a huge reality check for me.

Since leaving school to move on to Further education, my confidence levels have gone up immensely and I now feel part of a 'normal' community living a 'normal' life unlike in the past. As I've grown up with the disability I've come to realise that it doesn't define me  at all.

When I feel low about it now I just think "F*** it!". I've come to realise that my disability is part of who I am and I've accepted it. If I didn't have my disability I reckon I would be a different person (and that's not good because I'm amazing!) *blows own trumpet*. Of course I have my down days, but less often than in the past. I've come to realise that this disability has no cure. I just have to "keep on swimming".

I think this change came when I read a book that I recently put in a previous post called "What the F*** is Normal?" by Francesca Martinez. Francesca Martinez suffers from a more severe form of Cerebral Palsy than myself but most the things she was able mention definitely resonated with me and my experiences with the condition. Her funny yet real explanation of life really did make me stop and think about how I was viewing my disability. There's a quote in this book that sums it up perfectly:

"The only power we have in life is the power to choose what we think"

This powerful and poignant line really did make me think that I can choose to either continue thinking negatively of my disability or start to think positively and be the person I really am and not the one people see as disabled.

I have to be honest, now I'm college, not everyone needs to know about it. I have a small group of friends who don't question it and I feel like this has definitely boosted my confidence. I think I have this feeling in college because it's a free environment, you can do what you want, which in turn has taught me to live my life without supervision like I have done in the past. Independence is a virtue.

I'm just going to take everyday as it comes and try not to think negatively of it because that will just effect me further in the long run.

I understand that this post probably did bring you down a little bit but I feel it was something that needed to be addressed. I've never really spoken about how I feel towards my physical difficulty before, so I'm sorry if you were expecting a book review or a cookery post. I thought now was the time to address this. I suppose now you know me a little better than before. So maybe I should do About Me posts more often!

To end this post I would just like to say how important it is to raise awareness of conditions like mine and for more information please visit The Disability Charity Website / SCOPE UK.

This is probably the first time I've talked about my feelings towards my condition, I would really like to thank anyone who took the time to read this particular post all the way through, it definitely means a lot to know that you guys are actually reading this blog!

Thanks Guys!